Discontinuity

I write about a person who enters a hotel room or a bar or an office or a church. Maybe it’s an abattoir, or maybe it just looks and feels like one. Maybe it’s a dark space, or eggshell blue. She wants something—that’s constant. She gets it, or she doesn’t. Or she doesn’t and tells herself she did.

Could she be me? I don’t know; anything’s possible. And I’m not being coy; I really don’t know. In some aspects she resembles me, and in other ways we have nothing in common. Now, to me, it doesn’t matter. I’m only concerned that she is herself, whether she knows it or not. And if it matters to The Reader, then leave it for The Reader to figure out for himself.

But that’s it: a person in a place where something does or does not happen. It could happen (or not) with other people present, or he could be alone. But he is in that time, in that place, and then the moment ends. The curtain closes.

When it opens again, I reveal another person in another moment. It could be the same person; it could be the same place. The moment will be different. Even if everything is in exactly the same place as the earlier moment, this one will feel different. Because I’ve already revealed it before. So the recurrence alone changes everything.

The reader will see it again and feel bored. Or the reader will see it again and become concerned (Is it a mistake in the printing?). Or the reader will receive a Message from this recurrence. I don’t know what the message is since I didn’t write it; I only wrote and revealed one moment, and then I wrote and revealed another.

I’m weary of stories. All around me they chatter for my allegiance. The competing stories of various political parties. The contending stories of psychological theories or religious groups or philosophical attitudes. All weaving moments into strings and strings into cords, and tightening the cords with knots at regular intervals. We wrap these knotted cords about ourselves, our loved ones. We fashion them into loops and lariats for roping around others. We tie them to posts and turn them into fences for delineating “we” and “they.” And simultaneously bound together and pulled apart, we squeeze our bodies with each movement—tighter at the loins, across the diaphragm, around our throats—until we can barely breathe or speak except as the cords, as the stories, allow.

We say, correctly, that stories have power. We say that stories give us voices with which to speak. But do I tell the story, or does the story tell me? And how do I account for all that I must excise to make the story “work”? What do I do with the moments that end up on the cutting room floor, the moments that, had they remained, would have destroyed the narrative’s continuity? What happens to the inconvenient reality that we splice out in the service of coherence?

I have no answer—as a writer, as a human—for these questions; I have no alternative narrative to offer. I only feel that I’ve grown eager for the texture of an irresistible moment. And then for another moment that takes me further in that direction, or that obliterates the first, or that deposits me light years away in a completely different landscape.

Maybe I’ve reached the point where I would trade all of your stories and mine for the absolute presentation of this moment, for just being able to dwell in that. Maybe I want words precise and honest enough not to descend into a narrative. Maybe.

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